I.D.E.A. Biographies

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux served as Vice Provost for Indigenous Initiatives at Lakehead University for three years. Effective September 2016 she was appointed the 1st Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada for Lakehead University and continues to develop pathways forward to reconciliation across Canada. She is a member and resident of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Ontario and has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding.  

Courtney Revie

Courtney J Revie is a contemporary freelance visual artist/graphic designer by profession working out of the Greater Toronto Area. A graduate of OCAD University in 2018, she works mostly in acrylic paint, charcoal and watercolour. Courtney’s work focuses on empathetic imagery inspired by the human connection to another and the earth itself. She explores issues of cultural and systematic bias hoping to create a dialogue and new appreciation for the unique and intricate journeys individuals accumulate, allowing collective healing to begin and segregation to resolve.

Dr. Gerard Yun

Dr. Gerard Yun is an intercultural, contemplative, community musician, teacher, and scholar. A native of the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California, he is a descendent of San Francisco and Jamaican Chinese with a background rooted in a rich variety of musical traditions discovered and pursued alongside his formal training and professional work as a classical choral-orchestral conductor.  Currently, assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Dr. Yun is in demand as a clinician and workshop leader.  

Grant Peckford

Grant has more than 30 years in non-profit management including 10 years at the senior executive level and is experienced in developing and implementing innovative community-based services and programs in consultation with key stakeholders. Grant has dedicated himself and his career to the community and continues to be a strong advocate. 

Jan Beaver

Jan Beaver is a storyteller, author of several children’s graphic novels and history books focused on Indigenous themes, educational consultant and a facilitator of the Way of the Circle programs at Northern Edge Algonquin. Over the years, Jan has been a Water Scientist with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, a classroom teacher, an outdoor education teacher with the Toronto District School Board, member of various Aboriginal Education Committees and Senior Education Advisor for Ogemawahj Tribal Council in Rama. Jan is a member of the Alderville First Nation (Anishinaabe) and has dedicated a lot of time learning and teaching others about the history, traditions and cultures of First Nation peoples all across Canada. This passion is also reflected in her work with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. In 2002, Jan was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of her work in education.

Lauri Hoeg

Lauri is a proud member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation where she lives and works in her studio by the water called “Eagles in the East”. Lauri considers herself creatively inspired or “in spirit” and makes the space in her life to honour that gift through art. Lauri has completed large, commissioned pieces for organizations, and private collections in the region and also holds a degree in public administration and governance from Ryerson University, and works in the areas of First Nation culture and education. She currently sits as the Indigenous Trustee for the York Region District School Board and believes that “Spirit” moves through you when you are creating because she has often been surprised at what shows up when she lets her brush lead the way. 

Lucas Tensen

Lucas Tensen (MA Community Music) uses his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, instrument maker, vocalist and songwriter to facilitate interactive community events, performances and workshops. After years of classical training as a cellist, Lucas travelled to Senegal in 2008 to study the Kora. He also plays the Japanese shakuhachi flute, rav drum and vintage aluminum pots transformed into singing bowls. Lucas recently self-published an illustrated book called ‘Earth Anthems: A Songbook for Sharing Gratitude’. 

Mimi O’Bonsawin

If you can embrace the grace and power of Northern Ontario landscapes, you will feel the music of Mimi O’Bonsawin. She epitomizes the powerful scenery and the beauty of its waters through her music, all the while yielding to her rich and warm French Canadian and Abenakis heritages. Mimi’s music has gained some momentum and has received various awards and nominations. She has performed on prestigious stages such as at Midem in Cannes, and Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto.  

In a time where you may feel like it has all been done before, Mimi is a rare find. She is one of a kind. When you meet her, you will know it. 

Phiona Durrant

President Aurora Black Community 
“One vision diverse voices” P.D. 
Bridging Cultures through food, education, Art, music, & relationship 
Phiona believes that “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama. She’s the CEO of Coconut Village Spa and the President of The Aurora Black Community Association, Member of York Media Advisory Council, and YorkRegion.com Columnist 

Taylor James McKinnon

Taylor has been performing since age five. His passion for singing and writing in the style of his idols has benefited the growth of his authentic, time travelling voice.  Taylor’s songs tell stories that make his audience think and reflect on simpler times. Taylor performs at the annual Martin guitar Festival in Nazareth Pennsylvania and is a Carleton graduate with an Honours BA in History and a minor in Greek and Roman studies. Taylor has honed his abilities as a motivational speaker through his talks at York Catholic Board secondary school and has written or cowritten over 100 songs. He has recorded a demo CD of three original songs entitled Honky-Tonk Heaven and a full-length album, This Iron Road, containing original material and standards from the Great American songbook.